Wednesday, 17 Jul 2024

How Students Bypass School Web Filters & How to Stop Them

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From wanting to watch their favorite music videos on YouTube to streaming the latest episode of their favorite Netflix series, or even playing Fortnite during research periods, there are numerous reasons why students attempt to bypass web filters in school. With the increasing number of these reasons, students are continuously discovering new methods to achieve their goal. As teachers, what can we do to prevent this and maintain a safe and focused learning environment in the digital world?

Common Ways Students Bypass School Internet Filters

Some of the most common methods employed by students to bypass school filters include:

  • Proxy websites
  • VPNs
  • Browser extensions
  • Stolen passwords
  • Firefox from USB
  • Changing network proxies

As students continually find innovative ways to access restricted content at school, this list continues to expand. In the following sections, we will explore these common methods in detail and discuss what teachers can do to prevent their use in the classrooms.

1. Proxy Websites

Proxy websites have been one of the oldest methods to bypass web filters. These websites allow users to anonymously connect to the internet through outside servers. While it may be impossible to keep track of all the proxy websites being created and disabled daily, you can effectively block proxy sites by utilizing the web filtering features of GoGuardian Admin. These features include keyword blocking, smart alerts sent to teacher devices when students attempt to access restricted content, SSL intercept, and more.

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2. VPNs

Virtual Private Networks, or VPNs, act as a tunnel between two devices, enabling students to bypass web filters and other blocking features by encrypting data. Blocking VPNs can be a bit trickier, as they operate as individual programs installed on individual devices. However, with the help of GoGuardian Admin, you can create digital classroom policies that block the keyword search for “VPN,” preventing the downloading and installing of VPN software and apps. Additionally, you can utilize firewalls to block computer ports that support VPN connections, thereby denying the installation of new software without teacher permission.

3. Browser Extensions

Browser extensions have often been handy for students curious about bypassing web filters in school. These extensions allow students to browse anonymously, encrypt data, and even anonymize IP addresses. To prevent this, restrict administrative privileges on student accounts to prevent unauthorized downloads and installations of browser extensions that may conflict with web filter programs. Use GoGuardian Admin to set policies that restrict student access to control panels and settings from student devices.

4. Stolen Passwords

Although not as technologically sophisticated as other methods, stealing teacher or admin passwords has been a time-tested approach for students attempting to access blocked websites in schools. Secure and original passwords stored in safe locations are essential. The best password security involves changing passwords regularly, such as every six months.

5. Firefox from USB

Previously, web filters and blocking student access to “in-private” and “incognito” browser modes were enough to prevent student access to restricted sites. However, students have now found ways around these barriers by downloading versions of the Firefox browser onto USB drives. By plugging these flash drives into school computers, students can use Firefox unrestricted and undetected. To combat this, set your firewall to “deny” student access to computer ports and connecting unauthorized devices.

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6. Changing Network Proxies

Network proxies on school computers retain information about blocked and restricted websites. Students can access browser settings and toggle proxy settings on or off. Limited permissions for student accounts on school computers can prevent students from making changes to computer settings. Additionally, GoGuardian Teacher can be a great tool to deter students from attempting to change network proxies. It offers real-time monitoring of student device activity, smart alerts, and direct communication between teachers and students. Using Teacher, you can set alerts for students attempting to access restricted content and send notes to their devices, encouraging them to get back on track.

Importance of Preventing Students from Getting Around School Filters

There are numerous reasons why web filters and restricting access to certain content and websites are essential in schools, with student safety being at the top of the list. As teachers, we are entrusted with the safe care and education of students, and there are countless potential threats and dangers that await on the internet. Web filters not only prevent students from visiting violent, graphic, and distracting sites while at school but also protect them from unknowingly sharing personal information with strangers. By preventing students from bypassing school filters, we ensure their safety and focus, leading to a better educational experience.

Remember, maintaining a secure and focused learning environment requires proactive measures and consistent attention to emerging bypass methods. Stay updated on the latest trends and technologies, and utilize tools like GoGuardian Admin and GoGuardian Teacher to effectively manage and enforce web filtering policies in your classrooms.

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